Wheeler letter blasting former chief O'Dea is largely symbolic
If Larry O'Dea had not retired, he'd be fired, Mayor Ted Wheeler told the former police chief in a letter last month.
The July 6 letter summarized the findings of a city investigation of the circumstances around O'Dea's accidental shooting of a friend, and the lack of follow-up by O'Dea and top commanders at the Portland Police Bureau. The city concluded that O'Dea was not truthful with investigators, and Wheeler also summarized an unrelated investigation with similar results.
The city findings wrap up — for the city, at least — the fallout from the incident on while O'Dea was off-duty and on a camping trip in Harney County with friends in April 2016. News of the shooting did not leak out until well after the incident, and it turned out the bureau had done nothing to investigate it. A prosecution of him for negligent wounding was dropped after his friend and victim said he'd been compensated fully — an apparent reference to an insurance payment.
So what does the recent finding of policy violations — first reported in the Portland Mercury - mean to an officer who's already retired?
Not much, materially.
When an officer retires in mid-investigation, "the findings would then go in the person's personnel file and they would remain there," said Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Chris Burley. "We keep custody of the personnel file for 30 years."
So there's no impact on retirement payouts or anything else.
That said, the city investigation won't help O'Dea's reputation and standing in the police circles he's run in for decades.
An ongoing investigation by the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Practices, reported by The Oregonian, could in theory strip O'Dea of his law enforcement certification. The new city findings would provide the state with fodder for such a finding.
O'Dea has not responded publicly to the letter, and his attorney, Derek Ashton, declined to comment for now.
But O'Dea already shown his reputation matters to him. Soon after the criminal case against him was thrown out he successfully petitioned a Harney County judge to seal the case and set it aside, as if the prosecution never happened.
And before that, O'Dea threatened a lawsuit over a Harney deputy's suggestion that O'Dea was drinking at the time of the shooting.